The Czech Competition Authority clarifies competition law enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic

COMPETITION LAW ENFORCEMENT DURING THE CRISIS CAUSED BY COVID-19 DISEASE*

Countries around the globe are currently facing an unprecedented crisis caused by pandemic of the Covid-19 disease, which causes both health and economic difficulties. The Office is aware of the fact that in these difficult times, many businesses, mainly SMEs, are facing enormous problems and difficulties, which have negative impact on their work. Nevertheless, even these times should represent opportunity to look for ways and options for continuous supply of goods and services and fulfilment of consumer’s needs, and they should not be an apology for illegal and harmful conduct. Therefore, business should be still done in accordance with the legislation, including competition law.

The Office strongly emphases that it continues in markets monitoring, it oversees the compliance with competition rules and it is ready for possible enforcement and punishment action against illegal distortion of competition. Key areas under the surveillance of Office are currently hard-core cartels and prohibited exclusionary practices of dominant undertakings connected with critically essential goods and services, such as groceries, energies, drugs etc. The Office will focus on these areas in the upcoming weeks and months. Therefore, undertakings shall avoid facilitation of their situation by such behaviour, which harms the consumers as a result. This includes mainly agreements on prices, market allocation, production restrictions or joint action in public procurement. Undertakings with dominant position on the market shall not abuse this situation by excessive pricing. This applies mainly on the goods and services which are not during the crisis easily available. Such undertakings shall not force other undertakings out of the market by abuse of their dominance. It is not possible that such behaviour would be excused by the current situation and remain unpunished.

The Office is also aware that during the emergency, certain above-standard cooperation of undertakings might be desirable. To be in line with competition rules, such cooperation should be pursued only with the target of ensuring supplies of goods and services, which are necessary in the pandemic period and in the same time, their supplies are threatened by the current situation. Anyway, any business that would like to solve their problems caused by the crisis by mutual cooperation (even in good faith) should be always aware that the competition rules remain valid. In case of any doubts about compliance of their behaviour with competition rules, undertakings should contact the Office, which is prepared to provide guidance on legality of their actions.

The Office is convinced that in most cases and in most markets, even this uneasy period gives an opportunity to maintain effective competition and to ensure its benefits are passed on consumers.

*This is the original title of the press release. The title above has been amended in order to match the e-Competitions format. Individual authors are welcome to provide original independent commentaries on the case law. Articles are subject to approval by the Board of e-Competitions Bulletin before publication based on the Editorial Policy (click here).

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Czech Competition Authority, The Czech Competition Authority clarifies competition law enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic, 27 March 2020, e-Competitions March 2020, Art. N° 94043

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